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'Mobile bath' serves the sick and abandoned in southern Indian city.

KOCHI, India -- Xavier Judson carries tanks of water, buckets, bath soap and towels in the jeep he drives around Kochi, the commercial capital of India's southern Kerala state. Whenever he sees a disheveled street person, he stops offers him a bath.

The 40-year-old Catholic offers this "mobile bath service" mornings and evenings, providing baths, minor medical attention, clothes and food to people living on the streets. "I'm not doing anything great," he said. "I'm sharing the love of God that I have experienced."

Judson works for Cochin Urban Leprosy Center of Cochin diocese. The mobile bath service was his idea, and until recently, solely his financial responsibility. He said he bathes six to eight people a day.

In a typical encounter, he sees an unshaven man in tattered rags on the pavement and stops the jeep. He approaches the stranger, invites him to take a bath and offers him food. After 10 minutes, the man is clean and neatly dressed.

Judson started this unique mission in 2002 after his younger son's kidneys began to fail. Doctors told him his son had only a limited chance of survival.

As he prayed for his child's recovery, he thought of ways to please God. As he prayed, a memory flashed through his mind: The leprosy center had been called to attend to an elderly woman with leprosy who had been locked in a house for years. Judson was told to go pick her up.

He recalled: "When I reached her, I found a naked woman with swelling wounds lying on the floor.... I bathed her and cleaned her wounds."

With that flash of memory, he explained, "I decided to start this service." Judson's son eventually recovered.

The service began with a three-wheeled rickshaw his brother owned. Later Cochin diocese gave him a jeep and $18 a month to buy diesel fuel. About 20 other people have joined him in the work as volunteers. First was his brother Lawrence, who joined after seeing his younger brother "struggle without help."

Volunteer Paul Pullossery, 78, has experienced "something great" in the service. "We all can change this society with our humanitarian deeds. [Judson] has taught us how to reshape our lives by helping people in need," he said.

--UCA News
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Title Annotation:IN THE BEGINNING
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:May 5, 2006
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